Colombia- Villa de Leyva, a Spanish colonial city with much to offer

The city of Villa de Leyva is known for many unique features.  We stayed there long enough to fully explore the city and many of the surrounding villages as well as several lesser-known attributes.  Come along with us as we share photos of Villa de Leyva, Colombia!

One of the most interesting things in Villa de Leyva is the proliferation of fossils.  The soil composition, volcano formation and receding ocean waters left many unique species deposited in this region of Colombia.   There are several museums dedicated to displaying and teaching about the fossils.  Strangely, several of them do not allow photography.  But here are a few interesting images we captured.

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Fossilized leaf in excellent condition

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Fossilized ancient GIANT sea turtle.

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Fossilized Mike in a sea turtle shell.

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GIANT fossilized ancient fish

One of the unique features of the city are the fossils that are located in the streets, the walls, the floors, the sidewalks.  Just walking along the street it is possible to spot thousands of fossils peeking out as you go by.  If you look closely at this wall (like Nica is doing) you can see many fossils!

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Nica and Mike posing in front of a decorative wall of fossils.

Our parking spot in Villa de Leyva was in the corner of a grassy field.  This location is offered by the tourist board as a courtesy to travelers.  The location is near the school, which brings with it some noise and trash.  But we picked up the trash an enjoyed the noise.  We took advantage of the sunshine and aired out our blankets.  Nica even had a few visitors stop by while we were there!

Nica enjoyed playing in the grass, the visiting horses and dogs and of course, she even enjoyed playing with a few wild rocks that she rounded up!  But at the end of the day, she wants in the house to hang out with us. nica wants in

This location allowed us to walk through town easily as we enjoyed Peruvian food, fresh bakeries and a locally styled pizza while sitting on the HUGE, cobblestone central plaza.

Near Villa de Leyva is the town of Chiquinquirá.  That town is home to one of the most famous churches in Colombia.  The beautiful church was built to house a religiously mysterious work of art that is said to have been “miraculously restored” due to the faith of a Catholic sister.  The painting of the Virgin Mary is now on display at the altar.  And the elaborate church is the centerpiece of a bustling town square. You can read more by clicking this link (will open in a window)

And while we were out exploring we drove to the Paso de Angel trail for a hike.  This trail drops off a hillside and traverses a VERY NARROW path at the top of a hill.  On each side are beautiful, crashing rivers with waterfalls.  And the views of the fertile valleys go on forever!  We all enjoyed the hike, from the beginning to end!

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We’re hiking out to the end of the trail, where it drops off the hill in the middle.  Okay, we’ve got this!

It was a beautiful day with perfect weather.  Even Nica enjoyed most of the hike,  but she needed a little help across that very narrow, rock pathway section between two hills.  paso angel hike..jpg  One of the special treasures near Villa de Leyva is the Terracotta House.  This designer home was built by a local artist to become his primary residence.  However, he was so bothered by people wanting to see inside and learn about his methods, that he turned it into a museum.  He built a new (private) home nearby.  The Terracotta House is made entirely of natural and recycled materials.  The walls are simply mud (rammed-earth) while the floors and decorative areas are scavenged tiles, rocks, slate and similar materials.  The metal work is all from discarded metal parts of machinery and even the glass is from larger, broken panes of glass that have been cut to fit into the detailed artistry.  The house is fully functioning with running water, electricity, propane and passive solar.  The yard and out-door areas include a duck pond, BBQ, rain-water catchment and workshop area.  I hope you enjoy these clusters of photos.  We spent several hours exploring this property.  And for my friends back in Arizona, this is a blend of Eliphante and Arcosanti   (those are live links and will open new windows)  Both interesting places to explore also!  You can click on this link to see more about Terracotta House in Colombia!

The clay and earth pottery work in this area dates back to indigenous people who found suitable materials nearby in Raquira to make pottery.  It is now know at the pottery capital of Colombia.  We passed through town, but pottery isn’t well suited to camper life.  So we settled at a beautiful campsite with a gorgeous view out the back door.

From Raquira it is a short drive to the La Candelaria Monastery.  This beautiful facility is still in operation, housing between 5 and 10 monks and offering tours of the chapel, the original cave the Catholic monks lived in and the grounds.  They also operate a retreat center, hotel and beekeeping.  All of this while devoting their lives to Jesus and practicing their devout Augustine belief system.

These metal items are antique implements for self-flagellation or mutilation to control impure thoughts.  The straps could be thrown against ones own spine/back to cause injury.  These are on display in one of the original rooms at the monastery.

The central plaza of the monastery struck me as a bit odd.  There was a fountain and a circle of important statues around it.  But all the statues seemed to be facing this little pottery statue of a boy.  Since we were there just after some of the recent Catholic Church scandals, this looked strange!

This monastery also has one of the few known statues of Jesus Christ splayed on the cross with his eyes open.  The eerie glass eyes seem to follow you as you move around the room.  Most images of this scene depict Jesus with closed eyes.  monastary eyes open And not too far away is an older monastery that is no longer in use, but open for tours.  We found these dog carvings to be a beautiful gateway to the nearby cemetery.

And this also had a cavelike section where the monks lived originally as they begain their religious conversion of the natives in this region. The chapel in this location was beautiful, with some amazing carvings and a gorgeous altar.

There are many additional beautiful activities in the Villa de Leyva area.  It is a region that we would certainly urge Colombian tourists to visit.  If you are considering a trip to Colombia (which you should) be sure to include Villa de Leyva on your itinerary!

Follow our next adventure as we go looking for some interesting swimming holes and end up exploring some dirt roads way back off the beaten path!  Lots of fun……..

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